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In this proposal (3-4 pp.) you need to clearly display a firm understanding of the topic based on sources you have researched. It must be at least 3-4 pages, have at least 3 sources, and use MLA formatting/citation. The proposal must include these sections: Background and Reasons of Interest ● Why are you interested in this issue/question/area? ● Why is this something that others should be concerned about? ● What is the history of the public conversation about this idea? What has been said about your idea in the past, by whom? Look from a variety of angles. (Use sources to back this up!) Research ● What is your research question(s)? Try to only have 1. Remember that the research question needs to open your mind, and the minds of your readers. ● Introduce and summarize briefly each piece of research you have collected. Make sure to quote and cite from each source using MLA format! Write why each source is important to your research question. (This should be the majority of this section) ● Finally, write about the research you still need to do. What do you want to learn more about and where and how will you find this information? * Try to use only academic sources. Audience/Benefits (Complete this section last, after you have enough research) ● Who do you imagine the audience to be? ● What action do you want your audience to take after reading your findings. Works Cited ● Create a Works Cited page listing at least the 3 sources cited in correct MLA format.Write about the negative effects of spending excessive time on internet. (Internet including social media, video games or anything related to it.) I will attach two sources. The third one is…I also have reading responses for the attached articles.The writing should be very simple because it’s a rough draft.


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Computers in Human Behavior 31 (2014) 351–354
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Computers in Human Behavior
journal homepage:
A conceptual and methodological critique of internet addiction research:
Towards a model of compensatory internet use
Daniel Kardefelt-Winther ⇑
Department of Media & Communications, London School of Economics and Political Science, WC2A 2AE London, United Kingdom
a r t i c l e
i n f o
Article history:
Available online 23 November 2013
Internet addiction
Compulsive internet use
Problematic internet use
Compensatory internet use
Motivations for internet use
a b s t r a c t
Internet addiction is a rapidly growing field of research, receiving attention from researchers, journalists
and policy makers. Despite much empirical data being collected and analyzed clear results and conclusions are surprisingly absent. This paper argues that conceptual issues and methodological shortcomings
surrounding internet addiction research have made theoretical development difficult. An alternative
model termed compensatory internet use is presented in an attempt to properly theorize the frequent
assumption that people go online to escape real life issues or alleviate dysphoric moods and that this
sometimes leads to negative outcomes. An empirical approach to studying compensatory internet use
is suggested by combining the psychological literature on internet addiction with research on motivations for internet use. The theoretical argument is that by understanding how motivations mediate the
relationship between psychosocial well-being and internet addiction, we can draw conclusions about
how online activities may compensate for psychosocial problems. This could help explain why some people keep spending so much time online despite experiencing negative outcomes. There is also a methodological argument suggesting that in order to accomplish this, research needs to move away from a focus
on direct effects models and consider mediation and interaction effects between psychosocial well-being
and motivations in the context of internet addiction. This is key to further exploring the notion of internet
use as a coping strategy; a proposition often mentioned but rarely investigated.
Ó 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
Internet addiction1 is typically described as a state where an
individual has lost control of the internet use and keeps using internet excessively to the point where he/she experiences problematic
outcomes that negatively affects his/her life (Young & Abreu,
2011). Examples of such outcomes are cases where individuals lost
sleep or skipped meals because they were spending time on the
internet, or where internet use has resulted in conflicts with family
members or led to the detriment of a job or educational career. Most
research on internet addiction is based on initial research by Young
(1998), who conceptualized internet addiction as an impulse-control
disorder, deriving diagnostic criteria from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) diagnosis for pathological
gambling. Since addictions were not acknowledged in DSM-IV,
Young contended that the diagnosis of pathological gambling was
most akin to the pathological nature of internet use and adopting
⇑ Tel.: +44 7946567850.
E-mail address: [email protected]
Or excessive internet use, compulsive internet use, problematic internet use –
labels that have been used interchangeably to describe more or less the same concept
(Widyanto & Griffiths, 2006).
0747-5632/$ – see front matter Ó 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
the criteria would be helpful in clinical settings and stimulate further
research (Young, 1998).
The subsequent empirical work has not been successful in
terms of agreeing on a definition or the diagnostic criteria, nor in
the explanations of what leads to or follows from internet addiction. Researchers have also been unable to agree on who is at
greater risk, unable to agree on whether the problems are persistent and unable to determine whether the proposed methods for
treatment are successful. Despite finding many associations between psychosocial well-being and internet addiction researchers
have been unable to agree on a general theory about the etiology.
Traditionally, research on internet addiction has focused on
direct effects models exploring the associations between
psychological vulnerabilities and internet addiction. Studies have
explored vulnerabilities such as depression (Kim et al., 2006),
low self-esteem (e.g., Fioravanti, Dèttore, & Casale, 2012) and high
sensation-seeking (Armstrong, Phillips, & Saling, 2000; Velezmoro,
Lacefield, & Roberti, 2010; Widyanto & McMurran, 2004),
loneliness and shyness (e.g., Caplan, 2002, 2003, 2005; Kim,
LaRose, & Peng, 2009), locus of control and online experience (Chak
& Leung, 2004), attention-deficit/hyperactivity/impulsivity symptoms (Yoo, Cho, & Ha, 2004) and suicidal ideation (Kim et al.,
2006). Studies have also explored the association with psychosocial well-being (e.g., Young & Abreu, 2011; Caplan, Williams, &
D. Kardefelt-Winther / Computers in Human Behavior 31 (2014) 351–354
Yee, 2009; Lemmens et al., 2011; Van Rooij, 2011) as well as the
association with various personality traits (e.g., Leung, 2007; Lo
et al., 2005; Whang, Lee, & Chang, 2003), interpersonal skills and
intelligence (Byun et al., 2009).
This psychologically oriented approach to studying internet
addiction has yielded plenty of statistically significant results.
However, because most factors were found to be significant predictors it has not been possible to make any claims about unique risk
factors which has made it difficult to isolate the causes behind
internet addiction. Furthermore, as I discussed in a recent article
(Kardefelt-Winther, 2014) the associations for both loneliness
and social anxiety with excessive online gaming lost significance
when stress was controlled for. This result cautions that vulnerabilities posited as significant predictors of internet addiction may
only be significant by virtue of being examined in isolation from
other factors. A direct effects approach has not allowed researchers
to explore the significant predictors of internet addiction while
controlling for interactions with other influencing psychosocial
conditions or mediating variables. Therefore, in terms of theory
building the psychological approach has not contributed much to
a better understanding of why some people keep using the internet
despite experiencing problematic outcomes.
The lack of theoretical development is evident in Young’s edited
book (2011) where each chapter suggests different causes for
internet addiction. Although it constitutes an important effort to
summarize the existing research it leaves the reader with many
possible explanations but no consensus. Considering the amounts
of data that have been collected and the efforts made, the lack of
progress indicates that there are issues somewhere along the
way that makes theoretical development difficult. Ingleby’s
(1981) review of epistemological issues in psychiatry suggests that
researchers sometimes delude themselves that all that is needed
for theoretical development is just ‘‘more findings’’. He further suggests that ‘‘the literature on mental disorders is quite out of proportion to the adequacy of our knowledge about them’’ (p. 23). What
matters, Ingleby argues, are the fundamental principles which govern the acquisition and interpretation of ‘‘findings’’; and these
principles, although they are governed by matters of fact, are not
themselves discovered empirically – they are as much philosophical as scientific ones (p. 24). What is needed, then, is not more findings but a reappraisal of the kind of explanations we should be
looking for. Following Ingleby’s ideas, there may be much to gain
by considering alternative theories for internet addiction that do
not only take the literature on mental disorders as its starting
Early speculation by Young suggested that internet addiction
may occur when the internet is used to cope with difficult real life
situations (1998). This has been repeatedly mentioned in the literature on internet addiction (e.g., Armstrong et al., 2000; Bessière,
Kiesler, Kraut, & Boneva, 2008; Chak & Leung, 2004; Kim et al.,
2009; Kuss, Louws, & Wiers, 2012; Shen & Williams, 2011; Whang
et al., 2003; Widyanto & Griffiths, 2006; Young, 2009; Young &
Abreu, 2011) but rarely empirically investigated. The tenet of
Young’s speculation is that internet use has a propensity to alleviate dysphoric moods and may therefore be used to cope with or
compensate for real life problems. Similar ideas about the compensatory potential of media use was suggested in an early study by
Kubey and Csikszentmihalyi (1990), who claimed that people were
more likely to engage in bouts of heavy TV watching when they
were in dysphoric states. Bessière, Kiesler, Kraut, and Boneva
(2004) stated that if this logic applies to the internet as well, it
would suggest that people who are feeling bad are using online
entertainment as a form of self-medication (p. 31). Indeed, in later
works Caplan and High (2011) also suggested that through the exchange of online messages, users compensate for what they may
lack in real life. In the context of internet addiction, Young and
Abreu (2011) discussed whether an individual becomes addicted
to Facebook because they are using Facebook to fulfill missing social needs (p. 12). These recent discussions take the idea of compensatory internet use to a more detailed level where
applications are assumed to have different compensatory potential
depending on their affordances.
However, while plenty of speculation has surrounded the idea
of compensatory internet use few studies have empirically investigated the compensatory potential of internet applications in the
context of excessive internet use. Crucially, researchers have not
investigated whether a theory of internet addiction based on the
idea of compensation may better explain why people spend so
much time online that they experience problematic outcomes,
compared to the dominant theory of internet addiction as compulsive behavior and a mental disorder. While there is a theoretical
basis for investigating internet addiction as mental disorder, no
theoretical model exists to support research on compensatory
internet use in this area. The lack of theoretical support may be
one reason for why the idea of compensation is repeatedly mentioned but rarely followed up empirically. It would also explain
why the conceptualization of internet addiction as a mental disorder is still dominating research despite the apparent shortcomings
in terms of furthering the development of internet addiction
theory (e.g., Widyanto & Griffiths, 2006).
In this paper I will develop the claim that internet addiction can
be usefully approached from a perspective of compensation rather
than compulsion. Instead of the compulsive, pathological, nature
that internet addiction is ascribed in the literature, I argue that it
can be better understood as a coping strategy grounded in understandable (but not always healthy) motivations. This follows on
Wood’s (2008) observation that theories of addiction are increasingly moving away from a focus on the activity or substance as a
causal factor and instead suggesting that ‘‘addiction concerns the
interaction between the individual, their culture and their environment’’ (p. 177). In his paper, Wood (2008) recommends a dose of
healthy skepticism towards the idea of video game addiction, but
maintains that a minority of people do play excessively. A model
of compensatory internet use recognizes and seeks to understand
this minority outside a framework of pathology and mental disorders. I will discuss how researchers can develop this theory by
combining existing research on the psychological antecedents of
internet addiction with knowledge from research concerned with
the attractions and compensatory potential of the internet.
2. Towards a model of compensatory internet use
This paper proposes a theory of compensatory internet use
where negative life situations can give rise to a motivation to go
online to alleviate negative feelings. The basic tenet of the theory
of compensatory internet use is that the locus of the problem is a
reaction by the individual to his negative life situation, facilitated
by an internet application. As an example, if real life is characterized by a lack of social stimulation the individual reacts with a
motivation to go online to socialize which is facilitated by an application where socializing is afforded, such as an online game or a social networking site. This can then have positive and negative
outcomes: positive in the sense that the individual feels better because he gets the desired social stimulation and negative because
he may not go out and make new offline friends, which in the long
run means he could become dependent solely on the internet for
social stimulation. This scenario would be labeled as an internet
addiction when approached through a pathological perspective,
but has little to do with the compulsive nature of addictions. It is
an understandable and practical way to acquire social stimulation
when there is a lack of it (e.g., Chappell, Eatough, Davies & Griffiths,
D. Kardefelt-Winther / Computers in Human Behavior 31 (2014) 351–354
2006), but this habit may sometimes lead to negative consequences and addiction-like symptoms due to the amount of compensation required to alleviate negative feelings. For individuals
with permanent real life issues, such as physical handicaps or disabilities, the need for compensation may be constant as case study
evidence provided by Griffiths (2000) would suggest. For less severe cases, such as temporary school or work related stress, a
few hours of compensatory internet use may be beneficial and lead
to fewer problematic outcomes (e.g., Leung, 2007).
With internet becoming ubiquitous in society, it is clear that
some of the alleged ‘‘symptoms’’ of internet addiction can be interpreted as a normative shift in how younger generations entertain
or communicate and as a testament to the embeddedness of internet use in everyday life rather than pathological behaviour. Smahel
and Blinka (as cited in Young & Abreu, 2011) have suggested that
what is treated by researchers as pathological behaviour may be
a new way of life for which researchers currently have only pathological interpretations. Against this background, it seems all the
more important to understand the contexts, purposes and motivations for internet use, as these are likely to have a strong impact on
the outcomes (Shen & Williams, 2011).
Motivations for going online have been explored in some studies on internet addiction, primarily in the context of online gaming
addiction. Utilizing Yee’s (2006, 2007) framework for gaming motivations as a starting point, researchers have investigated whether
motivations for playing online games are associated with internet
addiction (e.g., Caplan et al., 2009; Kuss et al., 2012). Importantly,
in the study by Caplan et al. (2009) psychosocial well-being was
controlled for as they suspected that associations between psychosocial well-being or motivations for play and internet addiction
may be spurious. Indeed, following on Caplan et al.’s (2009) study,
Kardefelt-Winther (2014) demonstrated empirically that the motivations escapism and achievement mediated the relationship
between stress and excessive online gaming. This suggests that
motivations for play and psychosocial well-being may be usefully
explored in conjunction rather than separately. There seems to
be an opportunity here to combine the psychological approach
with the motivations approach through the model of compensatory internet use. Theoretically, in the compensatory model the
motivations for use are grounded in psychosocial problems or
un-met real life needs. In terms of research operationalization, this
can be tested by exploring whether the association between motivations and internet addiction vary depending on the level of psychosocial well-being. Methodologically, this is explored by
interaction effects between psychosocial problems and potentially
alleviating motivations for use. For example, people high on social
anxiety may compensate for feelings of loneliness by socializing in
a game or on a social networking site because online environments
feel safer due to the sense of anonymity (McKenna, Green, &
Gleason, 2002). In such a case, where the motivation to go online
is grounded in an un-met real life need and where the internet
use alleviates the real life problem, an individual may feel a strong
desire to spend more time online which could lead to problematic
outcomes. Whether this is what we wish to call internet addiction
or not can be debated, as can the compulsive nature of such internet use, but to suggest that this is a mental disorder seems to be a
3. Conclusions
This paper will conclude by summarizing the elements of the
compensatory internet use theory and suggest some implications
for interpretation of results, empirical work and further theory
The psychological approach to internet addiction used in most
studies consists of psychosocial vulnerabilities (1) and problematic
outcomes of internet use (2). A typical conclusion from empirical
research using this model is: ‘‘Internet users high on social anxiety
(1) and loneliness (1) are at risk of neglecting schoolwork (2) and having conflicts with parents due to their engagement with the internet
(2)’’. This paper suggests an inclusion of two additional elements
that have been mentioned in this paper: the online activity and
its affordances (a) and motivations for going online (b). Using this
model researchers could describe the observed situation in greater
detail: ‘‘a player of World of Warcraft (a) who wants to socialize (b)
and chat (b) with other players, and is high on social anxiety (1),
may be at increased risk of neglecting schoolwork (2) and of having
conflicts with parents due to their engagement with the internet
(2)’’. This provides an explanation for excessive use and negative
outcomes without framing the behaviour as pathological. It allows
researchers to understand what the user is using the internet for
and interpret the problematic outcomes against the background
of the motivations for going online and the real life context of
the user. Essentially, it enables researchers to say something about
why a person spends so much time online without resorting to
speculation. This has been a missing component in most research
to date because direct effects models are restrictive by nature
and do not allow the researcher to consider the impact of other
variables and therefore masks underlying processes that may be
vital in explaining excessive use. Exploring motivations in conjunction with psychosocial well-being allows us to elaborate on why
someone goes online by contextualizing the motivation for excessive use in the presence of psychosocial problems. This affords a
discussion of whether the internet use may be beneficial and
understandable as an effective coping strategy, despite the occurrence of problematic outcomes.
As with any model, it is important to consider its empirical
functionality in addition to the theoretical contribution. The
model of compensatory internet use suggests that researchers
need to empirically investigate the relationship between motivations and psychosocial well-being in the context of excessive
internet use. Is the use socially motivated – indicating loneliness? Achievement oriented – indicating frus …
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